Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Laurel is the designated baker of Vows. The descriptions of her sugary, calorie exploding creations practically had me salivating.

What’s it About?

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Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she’s too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker’s older brother Delaney, on whom she’s had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel’s quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del—she’ll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever…

First Impressions

I thoroughly enjoyed the second novel in the Bride Quartet series, but I’ll admit I did have my reservations before starting this third book. While it does feature the baker of the group (and I myself love to indulge in creating desserts), the synopsis of our two lovebirds seemed too reminiscent of the romance from the second book. As it turns out, my concerns were fairly warranted. We once again see two long-time friends decide to make a go of a physical relationship after years of friendship. They worry over how taking their relationship to the next level might be received by the rest of their friends, but after a smooth acceptance from the rest of the quartet the plot proceeds with relatively minimal drama. Overall there wasn’t a whole lot which set this third book apart from the preceding novel, which made Del and Laurel’s romance pretty superfluous when all was said and done. Sure, it was sweet, but there wasn’t enough to truly distinguish it from the couple in book two.

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Raspberry and Clotted Cream Cake- made by yours truly 🙂

Sexual Moratorium 

Something else which was similar to the second novel in this series was the fact that there wasn’t really much drama between our lead couple. While they initially question whether or not to explore their more intimate feelings for each other, once they decide to go down that road it’s pretty smooth sailing from start to finish. At the beginning, Del and Laurel attempted to place a sexual moratorium on their relationship, where technically they can date but sex is a no-go area between them. This way they can focus on developing an emotional connection which is deeper than friendship, but also ensures they won’t be spending all their time together in bed. It was definitely a fun premise, but unfortunately it didn’t quite produce the level of angst you’d hope for to raise the sexual tension between our characters to a delightful level. It also doesn’t take long before they throw the moratorium out the window and jump into bed.

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Double Chocolate Chip Fudge Cake- also made by yours truly 😉

More Money, More Problems

One area which does bring an added sense of drama to the plot was an issue over money. Del has always been the protector and pseudo big-brother of all the ladies of the bride quartet. He wants to take care of them, and therefore sees no issue in offering to pay for one of Laurel’s cakes, or for offering to reimburse her for groceries. However, Laurel takes issue with it. She sees these acts not only as a flaunt of his wealth, but also as an act of charity. Laurel believes Del assumes she can’t take care of herself, so he throws money at her whenever possible.

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Strawberry and Truffle Chocolate Celebration Cake- you get the idea

As with most issues in this series so far, we see how her insecurities over their relationship hearken back to her own personal issues with family. The strained relationship she witnessed between her parents makes it hard for Laurel to fully trust Del. The constant gossiping of their small, wealthy community also doesn’t help matters when she hears they all think she’s only with Del because of his money. It causes Laurel to question why Del might be with her. Does he actually love her, or is he simply with her as a matter of convenience to have an able and willing sexual partner in his bed? While it was an interesting point of discussion, it didn’t really come fully into play until the very end of the novel, and it’s all resolved so quickly that you never feel as though it was a major issue which posed a real threat to our couple.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies- I made ’em all!

Series: Bride Quartet, book 3. Throughout this novel we see scenes designed to heighten the sexual tension for the characters who will serve as the leading couple for our fourth and final book.

Final Impressions: I must say I was kind of confused why the author would choose to have two novels back-to-back which featured couples who were initially friends, and then chose to engage in a sexual relationship. Don’t get me wrong, this is a romance novel theme I’ve always delighted in, but there weren’t enough factors to truly differentiate the plots and characters of the two novels. This resulted in it seeming as though we just saw the same story on repeat.

Smut Level: Sexual moratorium my ass! Del and Laurel have an easygoing rapport which holds true both within and without of the bedroom. I will say I was rather disappointed that we never got a sex scene involving someone being slathered in whipped cream…or even buttercream. Laurel is the baker after all!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 353 Pages.

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Phantom by Barbara Meyers

Zoe is torn between her newfound relationship with a dashing man named Aaron, and her sexual escapades with a mysterious man she refers to as the “phantom”. Little does she know these two men are actually one and the same.

What’s it About? 

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A desperate woman. A disillusioned spy. A doomed mission.

Zoe Bradford will do anything to find her brother Ben, a missing missionary in Latin America. Even if it means sleeping with an anonymous stranger in order to finance a rescue mission.

Covert operative Aaron Manning doesn’t believe a “normal” life is possible for him. But the bizarre arrangement he creates with Zoe makes him more determined to step out of the shadows permanently in order to achieve his dream.

Zoe wants to believe in Aaron’s promise to save Ben, but she finds it impossible to fully trust him. When she blunders into the carefully orchestrated op, her interference nearly kills them all.

Aaron must fake his own death to start a new life, but Zoe still needs answers. And when her phantom lover makes contact again, a pregnant Zoe knows the only way to move forward is to learn his true identity.

When she discovers the man she’s in love with and the phantom who duped her are one and the same, will she be willing to forgive them both?

First Impressions

First things first, let’s start things off with the synopsis. I remember reading this overview right before cracking open my kindle to kick off the book and thinking, my goodness that’s a lot of detail jam packed in there. So I just soldiered on with the read, not thinking much about the synopsis once I got started. However, looking back on it now I must say it’s almost too much detail in that it gives away a few crucial plot points! Some of the specifics it mentioned were in fact some of the bigger surprise moments of the read for me, so in hindsight I’m kind of happy I forgot about all of the things the synopsis revealed ahead of time. Does this mean you should skip the synopsis? Nah, not necessarily. But maybe just give it a quick glance before you dive into the world of our characters 🙂

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A Love Triangle for Two

There are a lot of plot points going on throughout this book to keep you engaged. From Zoe’s missing brother to Aaron’s dangerous job, old enemies and lost loved ones. And yet, the most fascinating aspect of the whole story for me would have to be the psychological component behind this love triangle which emerges between Zoe, her mystery phantom, and Aaron. Our novel begins with Zoe in desperate need of money. She needs to build up some savings to hopefully pay a ransom and retrieve her missing missionary brother. Salvation apparently arrives in the form of an envelope filled with cash, and instructions for Zoe to travel to a discreet location. If she offers her body to the man at this locale, keeping the lights off throughout, and remaining silent, she’ll get even more money. What starts off as the most unusual of meet cutes quickly develops into a relationship of passion between Zoe and her “phantom”.

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And then Zoe meets Aaron, a seemingly nice guy in a bookstore who wants to get to know her. Unlike her primarily physical and transactional relationship with the phantom, her time with Aaron is spent getting to know each other, and has an emotional foundation. Not to mention the ability to actually converse with one another. However, it’s truly captivating to see Zoe struggle to take things further with Aaron, and her loyalties seemingly lie with the phantom who came into her life first. We see that beyond their sexual relationship, the phantom provided Zoe with a sense of autonomy and independence which had been lacking in her life for so long. She learns to live again, be desired again, and the phantom is continually providing her with the financial means necessary to take matters into her own hands by rescuing her brother. The fact that Aaron and the phantom are actually the same person lends even more depth and fascination behind this supposed love triangle, and constantly makes you question what Zoe will do when she uncovers the truth behind their identities.

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A Rescue Mission Gone Wrong

While Zoe’s inner musings regarding her relationships with Aaron and the phantom proved to be most captivating, the drama surrounding the rescue of her brother from mining criminals presented a bit of a quandary. I could both understand Zoe’s approach to this rescue mission, yet also couldn’t help but feel that she was being rather nonsensical at times. When Zoe discovers that Aaron is a covert spy, she implores him to do whatever is necessary to save her missing brother. She’s even willing to give Aaron all the money she’s saved from her sexual exploits with the phantom. When Aaron initially rejects her request for help, we see the first fracture of their relationship. After more pleading, Aaron eventually acquiesces, but says he won’t collect the money until after he returns from his attempt to retrieve her brother. Seems like a fairly sympathetic offer, yes? Yeaaaah, not so much. Zoe becomes enraged at the fact Aaron won’t take her money, not to mention that he refuses to allow her to tag along on his journey through the jungle.

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How can she trust that he’ll actually go? How does she know he won’t come back after a week’s vacation, and say he either couldn’t find her brother, or that he was dead? Mkay, totally logical concerns. Although the fact he didn’t immediately jump at the chance to take her money means he probably didn’t have any intention to just walk off with it. However, my biggest confusion came once Zoe decided to just traipse off on her own to locate her brother, and ultimately runs into Aaron in the jungle with his bad-ass team of spies who have also set out to rescue her sibling. Now, if it were me, and I ran into 4 burly, surly commandos in camouflage and carrying some intense firepower, I’d probably trust them to get the job done. As for Zoe? She’s still determined to try and ditch them in an attempt to rescue her brother by herself. But…why? At this point Zoe merely suspects Aaron and her phantom might be one and the same, but it’s not confirmed 100%, meaning she really has no reason to distrust Aaron when he says he’ll do whatever he can to bring her brother back home. It was an argument I had trouble wrapping my head around!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: All in all, this was an interesting read that presented us with some rather fascinating psychological debates. From Zoe’s difficulty at opening herself up to love again following the death of her husband and child, to her questioning loyalties for the two men she’s grown to care for, we’re constantly wondering how things will come to pass. Looking back, I will say the synopsis was far too revealing in some of the exciting plot developments which took place throughout the story. At times it was tricky to follow the reasoning behind the decisions of our lead characters, including Aaron’s initial ruse to give money to Zoe in exchange for sex in the dark with no conversation, as well as Zoe both asking for and then refusing Aaron’s help to save her brother. Overall though, it portrays two characters who aren’t necessarily perfect, who battle with their inner demons and past traumas, but can find love and comfort in each other’s arms.

Smut Level: They may have kept the lights off, but Zoe’s sexual delights with the phantom were red hot!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 364 Pages

Other Works by this Author

Meant to be Family by Amelia Foster

Kelsey left Connor behind months ago with no explanation. When their paths cross once again, we have to wonder if they’ll be able to overcome their tumultuous past to discover that they were always meant to be family.

What’s it About? 

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My dreams constantly haunt me, whether I’m asleep or awake. Six months ago, my life veered off course when my fiancée disappeared with no explanation. The partying lifestyle I’d adopted to cope, ended in an accident that left my body as broken as my heart. To make matters worse, I’ve managed to run off countless physical therapists in charge of the in-home rehabilitation I need to get me back on my feet. My last chance at staying in my own house is gift-wrapped in wavy, auburn hair and startling gray eyes. The woman that shattered my heart. Kelsey is the only one left to help heal my body. And her unexpected arrival brings with it the opportunity to ask the countless questions I thought I’d carry forever. But her answers only create a new mountain to overcome, one I never imagined. Now, more than ever, I need to prove to Kelsey that despite everything, we are meant to be a family…

First Impressions

What can I say about this series?! The author is simply a master at weaving together the love story of our characters into an amazing tapestry which seamlessly incorporates past with present; pure joy with pain. There are moments that will make you laugh out loud, and then those emotional scenes that tug at your heartstrings with each new sentence. The way the story is pieced together by alternating the points of view of our characters, as well as shifting each chapter from past to present and then back again ensures that you’re immediately pulled into the timeline to a point where it becomes near impossible to put down. I actually finished this book in two full sittings! There’s nothing like promising yourself each chapter will be the last, and then finding out you’re 1.5 hours past your weeknight bedtime and eight chapters beyond when you told yourself you’d stop. I feel like an addiction disclaimer is needed before starting each book!

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The Broken Hero

When our story opens on Connor we discover he’s in a dark place. Broken both physically and mentally, we find him still pining over the love of his life who walked out on him six months ago with no explanation. Following Kelsey’s departure he tried desperately to win her back, but in his failure to do so he subsequently lost a part of who he was. After a tragic accident which left him a hero, albeit one temporarily without the use of his legs, he’s now in a constant state of surliness. Physical therapists run away from his house in short order, and before long there’s only one person left who can possibly help him. Kelsey.

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A Questionable Quandary

Kelsey is heartbroken to have to interact with Connor again, especially seeing as she was determined that the last time she saw him would in fact be the last time. However, when she sees the pain he’s in, and how much he needs her to get his life back on track, she’s willing to put the past aside to help him walk again. As we see scenes of these two struggling to be civil to each other, interspersed with scenes from their past showing how they first fell in love, we’re mean to question how things went wrong for these two people who were once so right for each other. What could possibly have caused Kelsey to turn her back on the man who was always destined to be her family? Well, as it turns out, I guessed the root cause of her desertion about 5 pages into the book.

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I don’t thiiiiink it was necessarily an obvious conclusion, but the only reason I immediately realized the source of her melancholia was because while reading this book I was simultaneously listening to an audiobook with the exact same theme! I don’t want to give things away, but essentially what we’re dealing with here is a situation where Kelsey was convinced that the only way for Connor to live the life they’d always dreamed of was for her to leave. She thought that if she’d initially been upfront with him about why she left, he would have stuck with her out of loyalty, but eventually would have come to resent their relationship. However, I couldn’t help but think that the pain of them being apart would have to be a million times worse than the pain of admitting the truth. Kelsey may have been in an emotionally bad place when she made that decision to leave Connor behind with no notice, but once we see the flashbacks of the evolution of their relationship, we can’t help but feel that he at least deserved some kind of explanation. She left him to question what it was that he did to make her run, when in reality it was nothing on his part. That lingering doubt, mixed with the pain of losing the love of his life, was something he didn’t deserve.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Meant to Be, book 3. You can’t help but love each new couple!

Final Impressions: Every addition to this series is just as good as the one that came before. I’m constantly floored at how Ms. Foster is able to weave together so many different components of flashbacks and alternating points of view to create one cohesive, beautiful story that will enthrall you from start to finish. While this read did feel slightly predictable for me, I have to blame it on the coincidence of reading another book at the same time with the exact same issue impacting our heroine. I may not be able to condone Kelsey’s choice to leave Connor behind, but seeing the journey of them finding their way back to each other juxtaposed against how they first came together all those years ago? It’s a moving journey, and I’m all aboard!

Smut Level: Phew, this is one steamy read! Connor might be learning to walk again following his accident, but there are some things that come back to him quickly just like riding a bike.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 219 Pages.

Landing the Lawman by Kadie Scott

Hold onto your Stetsons ladies and gentlemen! We finally get to see the Hill family daughter get a romance story of her very own.

What’s it About? 

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Carter Hill walked away from a perfectly fine life and relationship…all for a career she’s chased since she was fourteen. Years and a PhD later, she loves her job as a water rights consultant. At the same time, now that all her brothers are happily married, she’s lonely and wanting more. But the only man in her life is Logan – super serious, no sense of humor, and friend-zoned. Or is he? Perhaps a sexy, no-strings affair with a man more driven than she is could help her move on.

Logan Cartez doesn’t date, do relationships, or worry about commitment. He’s married to his job – making sure what destroyed his family ranch and their legacy doesn’t happen to others. When Carter propositions him, what began as a passionate and unforgettable night soon develops into more. Logan finds himself doing things he swore he never would, and the feisty, brilliant, blue-eyed rancher’s daughter has him thinking about so much more than work.

First Impressions

This series is an absolute delight! Up until this point we’ve only seen the romances of the Hill family boys, most of whom are sexy as sin alpha cowboys. Well, after four full-length novels featuring the Hill men, we’re finally privy to the one Hill daughter falling in love with a dashing lawyer. It feels like I’ve been waiting for Carter’s story since book one, and I’m thrilled to say it doesn’t disappoint. I might even go so far as to say that Carter and Logan’s romance is my favorite of the series! It’s definitely a tough call to make, but these two draw you in from opening bell and simply don’t let go. The fact we also get to see glimpses of Carter’s protective brothers, not to mention their entertaining wives, who we’ve come to know and love throughout the series is a glorious bonus.

Rebound, or Real Love? 

At the start of the novel we see that Carter and Logan have a professional, yet friendly relationship. She offers water expertise to many of his law cases, and the two have grown to become friends over time. However, even though they’ve always been a bit more than co-workers, they’ve never acted on what they assume to be a one-sided attraction to the other. That all changes though after Carter learns her ex-fiancé, Brian, is engaged, and she thinks going for a roll in someone else’s bed might take her mind off things. When Logan learns that Carter is considering a potential one-night stand with a complete stranger, he sees red, and steps in to act as a source of sexual release.

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What follows is a steamy and amusing romance, with both Logan and Carter constantly debating whether they should upgrade this fling between them to a full-blown relationship. A feature to the evolution of their attraction that I found particularly fascinating was that we never really entertained the idea that Logan was simply a rebound from Carter’s previous relationship with her fiancé. While we can’t deny that her ex becoming engaged was sort of the impetus for them ultimately coming together in the physical sense, we also realize that they’ve always been close, and more importantly that there’s always been something simmering just under the surface between them. They’ve both been daydreaming for more, and in a way her ex’s engagement is the slap in the face they both need to finally act on it.

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The Role of the Ex

Throughout the novel we see a primary focus not only on Logan and Carter’s burgeoning relationship, but also a side story involving a water right’s case the two are working on. It helps highlight the dedication they both have to their respective careers, as well as how their jobs help bring them together. However, another feature of the plot which I found especially intriguing was the role of both Logan and Carter’s exes to their current relationship. When the two first met, Carter was still engaged to her ex, meaning that the foundation for Carter and Logan’s relationship was built as a friendship surrounding their work, rather than one which was romantic in nature.

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As for Logan, his ex-fiancée, Angela, left him because he seemed to pay more attention to his work than he ever did to her. It’s only now that Angela has broken up with somebody else that she starts to sniff around Logan again. We’ve already discussed how the engagement of Carter’s ex was sort of the impetus to them taking their relationship to the next stage from friendship to horizontal mambo partners. We also see how Logan’s previous breakup with his ex makes him hesitant to move things even further along with Carter from having a casual sexual relationship to an actual boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. After all, his work will always be important to him, and he fears that eventually he’ll fail to give Carter the attention that his previous fiancée always demanded of him. And this brings me to what I loved most about Carter and Logan’s connection.

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While they compromise in certain aspects of their relationship, we see that they never really have to give up a part of their lives that means a lot to them, and that would be their careers. Whereas Angela felt pushed aside, we see that Carter and Logan can come together in their work. Whereas Angela pouted and sulked on the sidelines, Carter isn’t afraid to ask for Logan’s attention when it matters most, or force him to take a break and have some fun when he needs it. Simply put, they fit together. They are each other’s person in a way that their exes could never be. Brian was pushing Carter to give up her career in Austin, and Angela complained that Logan’s work resulted in them spending too much time apart. And yet, when it comes to Logan and Carter, they can still have fun and play together, not to mention have sexy fun times together, yet still devote themselves to the careers that really mean a lot to them.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Hills of Texas, book 5. Quite possibly my favorite couple of the whole series.

Final Impressions: A delightfully romantic, funny, and also emotional read from start to finish. Carter’s parents sort of serve as the guiding light of wisdom in their relationship, and her father especially may have given the most enlightening advice of any romance character ever when Carter and Logan found themselves on the verge of breaking up after an argument. “Don’t assign blame…Rarely is it one person’s fault. Usually, it’s a little bit of both.” It might seem like simple advice, but my goodness when it comes to Romancelandia I feel like this needs to be cross-stitched into a pillow! I realize we’re all out of Hill children to feature, but I sincerely hope this series continues, maybe with a time jump into the future so we can focus on all of their children finding love!

Smut Level: This read is a perfect blend of clean with a bit of steam. While some scenes can get a bit descriptive and passionate, we also see several scenes end with a quick fade to black, or others where we come in after the good stuff has already taken place. I must say the only time this disappointed me was when we missed the details of Carter and Logan having phone sex! Would have loved to hear Mr. Proper Lawyer utilizing his dirty talking skills.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing.

The Enforcer by Abigail Owen

Sparks are certainly flying in this dragon shifter paranormal romance!

What’s it About? 

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Death comes for everyone. Even Drake Chandali. The aging process that twists all unmated dragon shifters’ bodies into something useless has taken hold of his body centuries early. A mate could have reversed the process, but now it’s too late. To protect his team of enforcers, he leaves, and comes face to face with the woman he’d thought was human when he saved her from a fire months before.

Except she’s not human. She’s a mate.

Camilla Carrillo almost lost her family to wildfire. To discover she’s fated to mate a creature made of flame and rage, and become one herself, should be terrifying. But somehow a rightness settles inside her, especially when she’s around the glowering red dragon shifter who wants nothing to do with her.

When Drake learns Cami bears his mark—the same mark as the High King—he refuses to believe she’s meant to be his. It’s too late. How could he turn Cami only to take her with him to the grave? At the same time, he can’t walk away. Hiding her from the corrupt, rotting High King might be the last honorable thing Drake ever does with the little time he has left.

First Impressions

Whenever I begin one of these dragon shifter romances, I always find myself surprised how determined these men often are to ignore the signs that their mate is right in front of them. Of all the books in this series so far though, I would have to say that Drake had the most compelling and understandable reason. All of the signs point to say that Camilla is his destined mate, staring him right in the face. Her proximity, her touch, make him feel alive in a way he’s never felt before. He feels drawn to her from the very first moment he lays eyes on her. And yet, he does everything within his power to try and push her away. The reason? He’s dying.

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All unmated dragons eventually age die if they ultimately go too long without mating. This degenerative process usually impacts dragons centuries down the road, but for Drake it’s hitting him earlier than anyone would have expected. He’s too proud to admit to his shifter teammates the sad fate that he knows will overtake him soon, as he quickly starts losing the ability to move, so he decides to abandon them to die out in peace without the need for them to witness his decline. When he runs to an old friend to live out his last days, he’s confronted with Camilla, and the very real possibility that she’s his mate. Rather than feeling a sense of relief at finding the one person meant for him, he instead refuses to hope that she could be his salvation.

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Better to Have Loved and Lost…

Drake is convinced he’s too far gone to be pulled back from the brink, and worries that if they should proceed with the mating process when they are in fact too late, his eventual death would result in Camilla’s death too following their solidified link as mates. He vows he’ll never risk her life in an attempt to save his own. However, just as much as I admired Drake’s selfless determination to protect, you’ve gotta love Camilla’s stubbornness above all else!

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She might be new to this world of dragons, mates, councils and enforcers, but when she acknowledges wholeheartedly that Drake is her destined mate, her reaction to his attempts to push her away are fabulous. Essentially, tough shit buddy! Yes, mating might eventually link them together in a way that would simultaneously cause her death with his own, but Camilla realizes that she would rather spend those few precious moments with Drake linked in the most firm emotional and physical connection possible, than to live out the rest of her life never having experienced it. She refuses to turn her back on him, and it was quite entertaining to see this slight woman stand up to an imposing and surly dragon shifter. You get it girl!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 3. This series by Abigail Owen is an absolute delight, as is the corresponding Inferno Rising series which focuses on the clan kings rather than this enforcer team of shifters. There’s action, romance, political intrigue, deception, and of course some fantastical elements mixed in as well. What’s not to like?

Final Impressions: This was a great addition to the series. The moments where we witness vulnerability from this seemingly brusque, tough dragon were by far the most compelling. He gives off this air as though nothing can infiltrate the protective barriers he’s set up around himself, but Camilla has taken hold of his heart and refuses to let go. A missing element to this book which was featured prominently in the previous novels was the brotherly connection of these dragon enforcers. It makes sense in a way in that Drake didn’t want his team to witness his decay, and he’s leaving them behind so as not to have to struggle through an emotional goodbye. This results in the story being much more focused on his relationship with Camilla. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, and while we get a few scenes which highlight the brotherly affection of the Huracan Enforcer team, I think I would have enjoyed another scene or two involving these dragons coming together as brothers.

Smut Level: Some dragon shifters have the unique ability to shift only certain parts of their bodies without fully shifting into their dragon form. For Drake, he has the unique ability to shift his human tongue into a forked dragon tongue. Camilla discovers that’s quite a handy trick to have in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 325 Pages.

 

Seismic Crimes by Chrys Fey

It’s hard to tell at times if Mother Nature is throwing everything she has at our main characters in an attempt to crush them, or to bring them closer together.

What’s it About?

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An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane–Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer’s location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?

First Impressions

This sequel literally picks up right where book one left off, in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane which initially brought our two main characters into each other’s lives. Similar to the first book, we see mystery, intrigue and suspense woven into the plot as Donovan and Beth struggle to bring the corrupt cops who killed Donovan’s brother to justice. While Hurricane Crimes was a quick, action-packed novella at just under 50 pages, this longer sequel provides our characters the opportunity to truly get to know one another in a somewhat slower-paced setting. As the disaster of the hurricane starts to recede, Donovan and Beth are able to connect on a deeper, emotional level as she comforts him in his grief.

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Beth becomes a shoulder to cry on, and a voice of encouragement to Donovan. She had to cope with the death of her parents all by herself years before, and as Donovan struggles with feelings of remorse and guilt following the loss of his brother, Beth is able to offer him comfort in a way she never had. There are moments where Donovan’s strength seeps out of him completely, and it’s through these heart-breakingly tender scenes that we see how Beth draws him back up on his feet. You couldn’t help but wonder at the end of book one whether these two would last beyond the initial drama which brought them together, but as this second story progresses it’s clear that they’re meant to last. It’s not as though one character is always the damsel in distress coming to rescue the other, but rather they manage to find strength in each other in a way which proves their love is the real deal.

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Hurricane vs. Earthquake

Throughout the first book I was shocked at how the author managed to make the hurricane which blasted against Donovan and Beth feel like a primary character. When I found out this second book would present our lovers with another natural disaster in the form of an earthquake, I couldn’t help but think, “well…that’ll certainly be easier to deal with than a hurricane.” What can I say?! An earthquake seemed like a rather quick disaster compared to the lengthy and thunderous rampage of a hurricane. Boy oh boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong! We once again see Mother Nature referenced as a formidable force that simultaneously seems to have it out for our main characters, yet also manages to save them in their hour of need.

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At one point Beth compares the calamities which have befallen her and Donovan, and relates how the hurricane was preferable compared to the earthquake in that you can prepare for the former, whereas the latter can unexpectedly hit at any time. Although the earthquake is over in a matter of minutes, the brilliance in the description of this second disaster comes more in the aftermath rather than the event itself. On the one hand, we see the heartlessness of some who take advantage of the hectic nature of the fallout through selfishness and stealing. And yet, in the next scene we’re presented with the juxtaposition of that greed through selfless acts of heroism by some characters. I’ll admit it damn near brought tears to my eyes to see how, in times where all hope appeared lost, there were those who banded together to help complete strangers all in the name of good. No demand for reward or payback, but rather proof that sometimes the beauty of the human spirit can surprise you.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 2. Technically you don’t have to read book 1 to understand the events of this novel, but I think you still might as well read it. It is only 43 pages after all! This sequel ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but it isn’t one that will leave you feeling annoyed. Rather, you can’t wait to see what might happen next!

Final Impressions: This was a great follow-up to the Disaster Crimes series. While there was certainly suspense and intrigue as Donovan and Beth chase after his brother’s killer, the first part of the novel slows things down a bit so that our characters have the chance to simply “be” with each other. True, they’re struggling with immense grief and heartache, but it allows them (and us) the opportunity to get to know who the other person truly is. Towards the half-way point we switch gears once again to get back to the suspenseful side of the story, but it was this first part that was the most revealing and poignant in my opinion. Their struggle to combat Donovan’s grief was an intense fight, but it demonstrated that these two are stronger together than they could ever be apart.

Smut Level: In the first novella Donovan and Beth initially explored their desire while hiding out in a bathtub. In this second novel they’re excited to have the chance to take their time getting to know every inch of each other’s bodies, and in a comfy bed no less!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 284 Pages.

Playing for Keeps by Ashlie Knapp

A man with six-pack abs who loves watching the Food Network and cooking Bobby Flay recipes? Oh yeah, I can get behind that!

What’s it About?

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To her friends and family, Aria Cook is a sassy, foul-mouthed, not-a-care-in-the-world woman. She dances for the Oklahoma City Thunder and tends bar at her father’s trendy downtown bar, A Shot of Whiskey. What her friends and family don’t know, however, is Aria’s running from a past she can’t escape no matter how hard she tries.

Trevin Anderson is a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy. He knows most women only want the fame associated with dating an NBA athlete. He doesn’t get attached. He has a job he loves, a sister and mother he adores and friends who have his back. He doesn’t need anything else.

After a failed first date, Trevin can’t walk away. Maybe it’s the thrill of the chase; perhaps it’s something more. She calls him her stalker. He calls her his girlfriend. Which one will be right in the end?

First Impressions

Aria and Trevin both put on an air of something they’re not. Her more-so than him, but essentially they’re both hiding the sensitive side of their nature from the rest of the world. He has the reputation as the ultimate man whore of the Thunder basketball team, always with a different woman on his arm, and never making promises about forever. However, when it comes to his time with Aria he becomes 100% dedicated to her. He’s not afraid to be sweet and affectionate with her, whether it’s renting out an entire animal park to give her an amazing experience with the animals, or constantly asking if he can change his relationship status on Facebook so everyone knows they’re dating.

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Trevin is smitten like a kitten, and he doesn’t care who knows it. As for Aria, she puts on a front of being a sassy, carefree chica who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and doesn’t let anything phase her. In reality, she’s experienced an intense trauma in her past that she keeps hidden from those closest to her. She doesn’t want others to know her weakness, so she’s essentially overcompensating in an attempt to show strength. Most people accept her facade as truth, but Trevin is the only one who recognizes she’s putting on a mask, and he’s determined to dig deeper than anyone else in an attempt to uncover who the real Aria is. She’s terrified her past will cause him to leave, no matter how much he declares he’s in it for the long haul. You can’t help but fall in love with his determination in the face of her hesitancy.

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“She put on a brave, smartass and carefree facade, but the closer he’d gotten to her the more he’d seen her vulnerability.”

A Long Wait

The development of Trevin and Aria’s relationship is a comedic delight to watch, while also interspersed with moments of emotional connection between the two of them. Throughout it all, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop that will ultimately test the foundation of their relationship. It’s an inevitability we know is bound to happen! Most of the book involves Trevin convincing Aria to let down her guard, and to trust in them as a couple. Once she finally does, and admits how much she loves him, things are almost going too well for them. Especially after they meet each other’s parents and aren’t fully scared off. We constantly wonder what will cause their perfect bubble to pop.

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Will Aria get scared off by his intimate affections and desire to take their relationship to the next level? Will Trevin’s man-whore reputation come back to bite him in the bum? We’re waiting, and waiting….and waiting. It’s not until about the last 10% of the book that we finally witness the drama that threatens to break up their relationship, and I must say I did not see it coming! Definitely a surprise, although it took a bit too long for us to finally get to this climactic moment, and then it was resolved fairly quickly. It was an interesting twist for sure, but it probably could have been fleshed out more fully to take the conclusion to a whole other level.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Playing, book 3. This was probably my favorite book in the series, if not a close tie with book one.

Final Impressions: This was a fantastic addition to the series. Overall it was a funny and cute read with some adorably likable characters. From Tristan’s mother who fully encourages him and Aria to have sex even if she’s staying just down the hall, to the whole cast of female characters from the previous two books. Aria and Tristan both had depth to their personalities that they didn’t always choose to share with others, yet as their love for each other grows they let their shields drop to reveal the softer side hiding just below the surface. The final drama at the end did seem a bit rushed, and could have been incorporated more fully into Aria and Tristan’s story, but nevertheless it was a fun read.

Smut Level: Some intimate make-out sessions, touches and caresses, but normally the sex scenes themselves were ones which faded to black before we witnessed anything too sensual.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 280 Pages.